Gloria E. Anzaldúa

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I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942May 15, 2004) was a Chicana lesbian feminist scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. She loosely based her best-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, on her life growing up on the Mexico–Texas border and incorporated her lifelong experiences of social and cultural marginalization into her work.

Quotes[edit]

  • Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and connectors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal (threshold) spaces between worlds, spaces I call nepantla, a Nahuatl word meaning tierra entre medio. Transformations occur in this in-between space, an unstable, unpredictable, precarious, always-in-transition space lacking clear boundaries. Nepantla es tierra desconocida, and living in this liminal zone means being in a constant state of displacement--an uncomfortable, even alarming feeling. Most of us dwell in nepantla so much of the time it’s become a sort of “home.” Though this state links us to other ideas, people, and worlds, we feel threatened by these new connections and the change they engender.
    • "(Un)natural Bridges, (Un)safe Spaces" from This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002), p. 1

"Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers" (1981)[edit]

  • Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger. I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you.
    • in The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader (2009), p. 30
  • Many have a way with words. They label themselves seers but they will not see. Many have the gift of tongue but nothing to say. Do not listen to them. Many who have words and tongue have no ear, they cannot listen and they will not hear.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)[edit]

  • The soul uses everything to further its own making. … States which disrupt the smooth flow (complacency) of life are exactly what propel the soul to do its work: make soul, increase consciousness of itself. Our greatest disappointments and painful experiences—if we can make meaning out of them—can lead us toward becoming more of who we are.
    • p. 68
  • At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. Or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off all together as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and separate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.
    • "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness," p. 100
  • That focal point or fulcrum, that juncture where the mestiza stands, is where phenomena tend to collide. It is where the possibility of uniting all that is separate occurs. This assembly is not one where severed or separated pieces merely come together. Nor is it a balancing of opposing powers. In attempting to work out a synthesis, the self has added a third element which is greater than the sum of its severed parts. That third element is a new consciousness—a mestiza consciousness.
    • p. 102
  • They'd like to think I have melted in the pot. But I haven't. We haven't.
    • p. 108
  • A misinformed people is a subjugated people.
    • p. 108
  • I did participate in the Chicano Movement. Actually, I started out with MECHA, a Mexican American youth organization. Also I was involved with different farm worker activities in South Texas and later in Indiana. When I became more recognized as a writer, I started articulating a lot of these feminist ideas that were a kind of continuation of the Chicano Movement. But I call it "El Movimiento Macha." A marimacha is a woman who is very assertive. That is what they used to call dykes, marimachas, half-and-halfs. You were different, you were queer, not normal, you were marimacha. I had been witnessing all these Chicana writers, activists, artists and professors who were very strong and therefore very marimacha. So I named it "El Movimiento Macha" as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement kind of petered out. And there were women like myself, many Chicanas, who were already questioning, having problems with the guys who were ignoring women's issues. Therefore, in the eighties and nineties, there are all these women-Chicana activists, writers and artists-around, and I listen to them, read them and reflect their influence on my life as well. What you could say is that in the sixties and the early seventies the Chicanos were at the controls. They were the ones who were visible, the Chicano leaders. Then in the eighties and nineties, the women have become visible. I see a lot of Chicanas when I travel. They come up to me, and while we are talking I ask them about their role models. They mention names like Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa and other Chicana authors. It is, and will continue to be, women that they are reading, that they respect. Not the guys. So it-the Chicano Movement-has shifted into the Movimiento Macha.
  • when Chicanas read Borderlands, when it was read by little Chicanas in particular, it somehow legitimated them. They saw that I was code-switching, which is what a lot of Chicanas were doing in real life as well, and for the first time after reading that book they seemed to realize, "Oh, my way of writing and speaking is okay" and, "Oh, she is writing about La Virgen de Guadalupe, about la Llorona, about the corridos, the gringos, the abusive, et cetera. So if she [Gloria Anzaldúa] does it, why not me as well?" The book gave them permission to do the same thing. So they started using code-switching and writing about all the issues they have to deal with in daily life. To them, it was like somebody was saying: You are just as important as a woman as anybody from another race. And the experiences that you have are worth being told and written about.
  • My whole struggle is to change the disciplines, to change the genres, to change how people look at a poem, at theory or at children's books. So I have to struggle between how many of these rules I can break and how I still can have readers read the book without getting frustrated.
  • more and more people today become border people because the pace of society has increased. Just think about multi-media, computers and World Wide Web, for example. By the Internet you can communicate instantly with someone in India or somewhere else in the world, like Australia, Hungary or China. We are all living in a society where these borders are transgressed constantly.
  • I also want Chicano kids to hear stuff about la Llorona, about the border, et cetera, as early as possible. I don't want them to wait until they are eighteen or nineteen to get that information. I think it is very important that they get to know their culture already as children. Here in California I met a lot of young Chicanos and Chicanas who didn't have a clue about their own Chicano culture. They lost it all. However, later on, when they were already twenty, twenty-five or even thirty years old, they took classes in Chicano studies to learn more about their ancestors, their history and culture. But I want the kids to already have access to this kind of information. That is why I started writing children's books. So far I have had two bilingual books published, and I am writing the third one at the moment. This is going to be more for juvenile readers, little boys and girls who are like ages eleven to twelve. Next I want to write a book for young adults who are about fifteen to sixteen years old as well. With my children's books I want to provide them with more knowledge about their roots and, by doing so, give them the chance to choose. To choose whether they want to be completely assimilated, whether they want to be border people, or whether they want to be isolationists.
  • I am a seventh generation American and so I don't have any 'real Mexican' roots. So this is what happened to someone living at the border like me: My ancestors have always lived with the land here in Texas. My indigenous ancestors go back twenty to twenty-five thousand years and that is how old I am in this country. My Spanish ancestors have been in this land since the European takeover which pulled migration from Spain to Mexico. Texas was part of a Mexican state called Tamaulipas. And Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and part of California and Colorado, were part of the northern section of Mexico. It was almost half of Mexico that the U.S. cheated Mexico out of when they bought it by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. By doing so they created the borderlands. The Anzaldúas lived right at the border. Therefore the ones of our family who ended up north of the border, in the U.S., were the Anzaldúas with an accent, whereas the ones that still lived in Mexico dropped their accent after a while. As the generations then went by, we lost contact with each other. Nowadays the Anzaldúas in the United States no longer know the Anzalduas in Mexico. The border split my family, so to speak.
  • the feeling of not belonging to any culture at all, of being an exile in all the different cultures. You feel like there are all these gaps, these cracks in the world. In that case I would draw a crack in the world. Then I start thinking: "Okay, what does this say about my gender, my race, the discipline of writing, the U.S. society in general and finally about the whole world?" And I start seeing all these cracks, these things that don't fit. People pass as though they were average or normal; however, everybody is different. There is no such thing as normal or average. And your culture says: "That is reality!" Women are this way, men are this way, white people are this way. And you start seeing behind that reality. You see the cracks and realize that there are other realities. Women can be this or that, whites can be this or that. Besides physical reality there might be a spiritual reality. A parallel world, a world of the supernatural. After having realized all these cracks, I start articulating them and I do this particularly in the theory. I have stories where these women, these prietas-they are all prietas-actually have access to other worlds through these cracks. So I take these major things, I just go with it and work it out as much as I can. I bring the concept of borders and borderlands more into unraveling all that, too. And I now call it Nepantla, which is a Nahuatl word for the space between two bodies of water, the space between two worlds. It is a limited space, a space where you are not this or that but where you are changing. You haven't got into the new identity yet and haven't left the old identity behind either-you are in a kind of transition. And that is what Nepantla stands for. It is very awkward, uncomfortable and frustrating to be in that Nepantla because you are in the midst of transformation.
  • gender is an important issue, too, as in most of the major religions in the world-like Christianity, Hindi and Islam-women are second-place and inferior. Women are regarded as nothing and often treated worse than cattle. In all these religions there is that attitude underneath. But yes, Christianity has cleaned up a lot of that. However, if you look at all the violence towards women, women are battered, molested, raped or killed-for example, one out of every three women in this country gets molested-there is a deep hatred and fear of women. So, yeah, the white culture emphasizes that we are all equal, men and women. However, underneath all that there is this violence against women, all this negative stuff about women. So if you can see through that illusion, through those cracks, you can see to that reality-of Protestantism, Christianity, Judaism, Hindi, Islam and Moslem, the major religions in the world-that they still have that negative attitude towards women as they continue to regard and treat them as inferior beings.
  • When you go through a heavy difficult time, and you don't have the resources, you can't go to anybody in the society or in the community, you finally fall back on yourself. What I did was that I started breathing. I had to like breathing and to start meditating in order to get through the pain and that whole difficult period. And all that reconnected me with nature, from which I had gotten away. So this is why I like to live at the ocean, like I do now here in Santa Cruz. You know, to live near the ocean means that you just go there and then get another infusion of energy. All the petty problems you have fall away because of the presence of the ocean. It therefore is a real spiritual presence for me. I feel that way with some trees, the wind, serpents, snakes, deserts, too. So in the periods that I was going through, my very darkest times when there was nobody there for me, I realized that at least I had to be there for me.

This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color 4th Edition (2015)[edit]

1983 Forward[edit]

  • Perhaps like me you are tired of suffering and talking about suffering, estás hasta el pescuezo de sufrimiento, de contar las lluvias de sangre pero no las lluvias de flores (up to your neck with suffering, of counting the rainsof blood but not the rains of flowers).
  • Basta de gritar contra el viento-toda palabra es ruido si no está acompañada de acción (enough of shouting against the wind-all words are noise if not accompanied with action).
  • We have come to realize that we are not alone in our struggles nor separate nor autonomous but that we-white black straight queer female male-are connected and interdependent. We are each accountable for what is happening down the street, south of the border or across the sea. And those of us who have more of anything: brains, physical strength, political power, spiritual energies, are learning to share them with those that don't have.
  • With This Bridge comenzado a salir de las sombras; hemos comenzado a reventar rutina costumbres opresivas y a aventar los tabues; hemos comenzado a acarrear con orgullo la tarea de deshelar corazones y cambiar conciencias (we have begun to come out of the shadows; we have begun to break with routines and oppressive customs and to discard taboos; we have commenced to carry with pride the task of thawing hearts and changing consciousness). Mujeres, a no dejar que el peligro del viaje y la inmensidad del territorio nos asuste-a mirar hacia adelante y a abrir paso en el monte (Women, let's not let the danger of the journey and the vastness of the territory scare us-let's look forward and open paths in these woods). Caminante, no hay puentes, se hacen puentes al andar (Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks).

2001 Forward[edit]

  • Like a stone thrown into a pool, this book's ripples have touched people on numerous shores, affecting scholars and activists throughout the world.
  • Among the ashes traces of our roots glow like live coals illuminating our past, giving us sustenance for the present and guidance for the future.
  • The seed for this book came to me in the mid-seventies in a graduate English class taught by a "white" male professor at the University of Texas at Austin. As a Chicana, I felt invisible, alienated from the gringo university and dissatisfied with both el movimiento Chicano and the feminist movement. Like many of the contributors to Bridge I rebelled, using writing to work through my frustrations and make sense of experiences.
  • collectively we've gone far, but we've also lost ground-affirmative action has been repealed, the borders have been closed, racism has taken new forms and it's as pervasive as it was twenty-one years ago. Some of the cracks between the worlds have narrowed, but others have widened-the poor have gotten poorer, the corporate rich have become billionaires. New voices have joined the debate, but others are still excluded.
  • Later I taught a course in Chicano Studies titled La Mujer Chicana. Having difficulty finding material that reflected my students' experiences I vowed to one day put Chicanas' and other women's voices between the covers of a book.
  • Subtle forms of political correctness, self-censorship, and romanticizing home racial/ethnic/class communities imprison us in limiting spaces. These categories do not reflect the realities we live in, and are not true to our multicultural roots. Liminality, the in-between space of nepantla, is the space most of us occupy. We do not inhabit un mundo but and we need to allow these other worlds and peoples to join in the feminist-of-color dialogue. We must be wary of assimilation but not fear cultural mestizaje. Instead we must become nepantleras and build bridges between all these worlds as we traffic back and forth between them, detribalizing and retribalizing in different and various communities.
  • daring to make connections with people outside our "race" necessitates breaking down categories. Because our positions are nos/otras, both/and, inside/outside, and inner exiles we see through the illusion of separateness. We crack the shell of our usual assumptions by interrogating our notions and theories of race and other differences. When we replace the old story (of judging others by race, class, gender, and sexual groupings and using these judgments to create barriers), we threaten people who believe in clearly defined mutually exclusive categories. The same hands that split assumptions apart exchange of stories.
  • Our images/feelings/thoughts have to be conflicted before we see the need for change.
  • For positive social change to happen we need to envision a different reality, dream new blueprints for it, formulate new strategies for coping in it.
  • May our voices proclaim the bonds of bridges.

Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality (2015)[edit]

  • Though modern therapies exhort you to act against your passions (compulsions), claiming health and integration lies in that direction, you've learned that delving more fully into your pain, anger, despair, depression will move you through them to the other side, where you can use their energy to heal.
  • The solution to your depression lies en esa cueva oscura [in this dark cave] and a deeper integration of your psyche.
    • p. 111

Quotes about Gloria Anzaldúa[edit]

  • In the '80s, when I -- I've written about this -- I was rooming with Gloria Anzaldúa, who was a Chicana lesbian writer from Texas. And we were teaching in a program in Santa Cruz -- a summer three-week -- I think it was a three-week program. It was called Women's Voices, and it was about -- it was a writing program,...We sort of introduced ourselves to each other, and -- she did ask me how come I never used Yiddish, and I thought that was sort of an interesting (laughs) question, since it had never even occurred to me. I mean, I think I used two Yiddish words up until then.
  • "To survive the borderlands/you must live sin fronteras/be a crossroads." Those words convey Gloria E. Anzaldúa's essence as she wrote so powerfully about the many kinds of borderlands we confront in life...Her death from diabetes marks the loss of a great feminist philosopher whose ideas live on.
    • Elizabeth Martinez, 500 Years of Chicana Women's History/500 Años de la Mujer Chicana (2008)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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